Should-Read: Timothy Noah: @TimothyNoah1 on Twitter

August 1, 2017
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Should-Read: The way I now think about it, there are:

  1. Hard neoliberals: Mont Pelerin—the market giveth, the market taketh away, blessed be the name of the market!
  2. Soft neoliberals: Washington Monthly—harness market means to attainable social democratic redistributive ends where those can be accomplished at low cost, and otherwise to focus on growth to lift all boats.
  3. Cultural neoliberals: New Republic—we don’t like Blacks, especially young Blacks, and extra especially Jesse Jackson. We don’t like women much when they move out of their place. We think unions are yucky. We think Arabs are bad.

These groups overlap, to say the least…

Timothy Noah: @TimothyNoah1 on Twitter: “@rortybomb @jonathanchait: It simply isn’t true… https://twitter.com/TimothyNoah1/status/887406956994064384

…that Charlie Peters and the WashMonthly (where I was an editor in 1980s) favored Social Security only for very poor. WashMonthly neolibs simply opposed Social Security for the rich. In that spirit it favored progressive taxation of benefits, which began under Reagan as a genuinely bipartisan solution to the system’s insolvency. There may be political reasons for “universality” that we failed to appreciate. Means-tested programs have, in recent years, been demonized as welfare by Republicans, even tho Republicans tend to favor means-testing. It’s kind of a bait and switch. I wrote about this a few years ago. But the budgetary benefits of means-testing many (not all) benefits remain a strong argument for doing so.

In any event, I’m growing weary of the caricatures being written of Washington Monthly-style neoliberalism by people who are too young to remember the debates among Democrats in the 1970s and 1980s yet choose to demonize them. The Washington Monthly neolibs got some things wrong. Most notably, we underestimated the fragility of unions we hoped to reform and not eliminate. (Well, @kausmickey wanted to eliminate them. The rest of us just wanted to fix them.) Walter Reuter was a Washington Monthly hero. So was FDR. Neolibs had some desire to harness market forces to regulatory goals, but that was hardly a sellout to the GOP. The main product of this thinking was cap and trade, which wasn’t exactly embraced by Rs when Obama proposed.

It is a deep conviction of mine that the left and centrist liberals have been talking past each other for a generation. That’s really going to have to stop. Something like a dialog began during the Democratic primaries, but after Bernie Sanders dropped out the gulf widened, and it’s widened much further since Trump’s inauguration. The End.

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